During the 2017 NHL Draft, the St. Louis Blues pulled off one the greatest draft heists in history when they were able to trade Ryan Reaves to the Pittsburgh Penguins for prospect Oskar Sundqvist and the 31st overall pick.
Reaves, a career fourth line enforcer was the Blues’ longest-tenured player at the time of the trade. His will and determination to not only become the league’s best enforcer (according to Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford), but to improve his skill set, made him the ultimate fan-favorite in St. Louis.
It’s quite possible that no other team besides the reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champions would be willing to give up a prospect like Sundqvist and a first-round draft choice in order to get Reaves. The Penguins felt that their star players (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) had been treated unfairly in the past and that teams got physical with Pittsburgh to throw them off of their game. They hope that with their own bruiser they can combat that strategy head on.
Executing Armstrong's Master Plan
Regardless of Pittsburgh's needs, the deal was a no-brainer for general manager Doug Armstrong. With the 31st overall pick, the Blues selected Russian prospect Klim Kostin, solidifying St. Louis’s major haul on night one of the 2017 Draft.
"When St. Louis made the trade we had an idea that the trade was made for us," Kostin's Agent Dan Milstein said on Andy Strickland's Hockey Sense Show.
Many believed the 18-year-old would be off the board at that stage in the draft and in fact, Kostin was the lone prospect remaining in the green room in Chicago when he was selected.
The Blues were ecstatic to see him still available and without hesitation executed their master plan that may have been in place since prior to the NHL Expansion Draft when they protected Reaves over veteran David Perron.
On July 12, Fox Sports' Strickland spoke with Milstein on 590TheFan in St. Louis. Milstein revealed that Armstrong asked Kostin during a meeting prior to the draft if the Blues selected the Russian, would he sign with the team as soon as possible.
"A day before the draft, we went up to the suite and for the first time, Klim met (Armstrong) and number of other senior members of the Blues and at the time Mr. Armstrong looked Klim in the eye and asked him: 'If I draft you tomorrow will you sign with us on Tuesday?' and without hesitation Klim said I would," Milstein said.
Questions regarding his ability to terminate his KHL contract with Dynamo Moscow led to many teams losing interest in taking a chance on Kostin in the draft. However, on July 4, the KHL Disciplinary Committee declared that every player contract with the Dynamo had been annulled and all 42 players, including Kostin, were named unrestricted free agents. The Blues wasted little time and signed Kostin on July 5 to a three-year, entry-level deal.
"Klim was the first player in the first round to sign an NHL Entry-Level contract, to be quite honest he would have signed the very next day but we had to get him out of the KHL contract," Milstein said.
Kostin's Future Looks Promising
The 6’3″, 196-pound forward hasn't played in live game action since December of 2016, when he underwent shoulder surgery after an injury got progressively worse throughout his first and only eight games for Dynamo Moscow last year.
However, Blues fans caught a glimpse of Kostin during the Blues annual prospect camp from June 28-July 1. He was unable to scrimmage as he is still not cleared for full contact, but he did participate in individual drills and was one of the more impressive skaters on the ice.
The Blues are excited about Kostin's future as Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Kostin had really good potential, calling him a “strong, strong man” after the camp.
“He’s a big man, he can skate, he’s got a real good physical package. But I don’t like to get too over-hyped in the summer. We’re excited to have him, I think it was a good pick by our staff, where they were able to acquire him. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Traverse City,” Doug Armstrong said.
Blues' star Vladimir Tarasenko is also excited that Kostin will be joining the Blues. During a vacation in Italy, he called Kostin but miscalculated the time difference and woke the 18-year old in his sleep. "They had a brief conversation from what Klim can remember because it was five in the morning," Milstein said. "Klim can't wait to be on the ice with him at the start of camp."
Traverse City, Michigan could be the first North American city to see Kostin play as a member of the Blues, as he has set his sights on playing in the 2017 NHL Prospects Tournament. The tournament gets underway Sept. 8.